Women in Myanmar have shown their strength over decades of armed conflict. They have also reshaped a landscape of patriarchal values that have long attempted to shape the country. Advocates have been calling for stronger legislation to protect women from physical and emotional violence, but there has been a disappointing lack of desire to pass laws which would protect survivors and ensure access to justice.
The malice exhibited by the Myanmar junta includes many years of sexual violence perpetrated during internal conflict. Under these harrowing circumstances, women and girls bear the burden. They are targeted by soldiers while trying to escape raids, and flee organized violence. Those who survive are left traumatized and often without adequate access to psychosocial counseling. Their lives, along with their families, are forever marred by the regime’s vehemence.
Pathways to justice are filled with roadblocks, including costly trials and protection granted to soldiers. The junta has been able to evade accountability and increase the likelihood of repeat offenses. Years of impunity has reinforced a deeply flawed legal system that denies the dignity, safety and security of victims.
Since the failed Myanmar coup on 1 February 2021, civilians have come under fire as soldiers have attempted to squander resistance movements through any means necessary. Over 1,500 people have been killed and hundreds more injured, according to local documentation groups. Against this backdrop of unyielding violence, women’s resistance movements have prevailed under the darkest of circumstances. Pro-democracy campaigns have taken place in spite of the threats and risks to their physical and digital security.
In the presence of the Myanmar military, women have never been safe. Nevertheless, women’s voices for change continue to persevere. Against all odds, indeed, they continue to resist.